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Santa Cruz Successfully Defends His WBA Belt Against Rivera; Figueroa Defeats Molina

Barbara Pinnella

Barbara lives in USA and tries to cover as many fights as she can – which is never enough! She has been writing about boxing since the first series of The Contender, where she interviewed the loser of each match each week, and then the winner of the final bout and has been covering boxing ever since.

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PBC held their fight card Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live. Eight of the fights on the card went after the main event. That’s a lot of fights after television time, especially when two were scheduled for 12, (and a title fight at that) and one for 10 rounds.

The main event featured Leo “Terremoto” Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) going against Rafael Rivera (26-3-2, 17 KOs). This fight was for the WBA World featherweight championship that Santa Cruz was defending.

The first round did not see any holding back or feeling the other fighter out. Both men went right to the other, wasting no time at all. Leo was landing a lot of body shots in the second, as well as combinations. Rivera began to pick up the pace about halfway through the round and managed to smother Santa Cruz a couple of times.

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Rivera came out fast in the third round, and for most of the three minutes the two fought in close quarters. Both of them were doubling up on their punches while fighting in that phone booth. In the fourth, Santa Cruz and Rivera went to the body often, and usually connected. That is a very strong punch for each man, and they are happy to throw it.

The fifth round found the two once again fighting in tight and utilizing combinations often. They would go for the head and body constantly, and both would connect frequently as well. They also showed a lot of speed with their deliveries. Leo looked as if he had the upper hand in the sixth, but just when that seemed to be the case, Rafael would explode and dive in to land several punches.

Everything continued to go back and forth in the seventh. Each man was bringing the best out of the other, and the skills of each fighter was evident. In the eighth, Leo tried to keep Rafael against the ropes a few times, but Rivera wouldn’t let that happen, Instead, he would roll off and go back on the attack.

In the ninth, they turned up the heat even more. Their exchanges were fast and furious. Nobody had slowed down in this one at all. No changes were noted in the tenth, as they were able to continue at the fast pace they set from the beginning. At the same time, they were still landing punches in combinations.

We moved into the championship rounds now, and if someone just walked in, they would think the fight had just began. There was no sign of any exhaustion from either one, as they kept up the same pace, throwing many, many punches every round. There was no disappointment in the final round either. These two brought it all on this night, and we went to the scorecards. All three judges saw the fight the same, 119-109, all for Santa Cruz, who threw 1350 punches! But make no mistake, Rivera was a warrior in there. There was no quit in Rafael in this war, so kudos to him for his performance.

In the co-main event, the very durable Omar Figueroa, Jr. (28-0-1, 19 KOs) battled John Molina, Jr. (30-8, 24 KOs) in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds in the welterweight division. Some action in the first, but not a lot to write home about. The second round was a complete opposite of the first. The two fought the entire time, and each had their share of good moments, with work to both the head and body of their opponents.

There was a lot of back and forth action in the third and once again, each man had their time to shine. Molina might have the edge, but Figueroa is tough as nails. Omar landed some really good shots in the fourth and appeared to hurt John, but wasn’t able to finish the job. In the fifth, Molina landed a huge shot on Figueroa, and Omar went into protection mode for a bit after eating that big punch.

What a back and forth battle here. When one man looked to be dominating, the other would just come right back stronger. That was definitely the case in the sixth. That was the same in the next round as well.

There was no real domination in the eighth, as the pace slowed down just a tiny bit. The ninth round was again one that showcased both fighters at different times. We moved into the tenth and final round.

That really showed nothing different. To be sure, this was a hard-fought war. Molina landed the heavier shots, while Figueroa was able to connect with his punishing body punches. It was rather amazing that there were no knockdowns and we went to the scorecards. All of the judges saw the same man winning but with different scores; 97-93, 98-92, 99-91, all for Figueroa.

Two undefeated fighters faced off as Sebastian Fundora (12-0, 8 KOs) took on Donnie Marshall (10-1, 6 KOs) in a super welterweight fight that was scheduled for eight rounds. The first round saw both men getting in some shots, but more of feel out round to start. Fundora, who likes to fight in the pocket, landed a lot of punches on Marshall in the second. A left hook thrown by Sebastian put Donnie on the canvas. Fundora continued his assault and referee Jerry Cantu jumped in and stopped the bout at 1:08 seconds of the third round, ending the win streak of Marshall.

Lightweights were next up, as Karlos Balderas (7-0, 6 KOs) took on Jose Cen Torres (13-11, 1 KO). This fight was to go six rounds. Karlos showed his skills in the first round as he was landing his punches almost at will. A well-placed left hand to the body by Balderas put Torres down in the second. It was still all Karlos in the third, as he continued to punish with body shots. So much so in fact, that Torres was unable to continue and the fight was stopped after the third round.

Cesar Juarez (23-7, 17 KOs) went up against Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16 KOs) in an IBF World super bantamweight title eliminator that was set for 12 rounds. The first round was uneventful. In the second, Iwasa was really saved by the bell. Juarez rocked him with a very hard shot at the 10-second warning, which allowed him to get out of the round.

Nothing different to note in the third. Juarez was still proving he was the slickest fighter. In the fourth, once again Iwasa got rocked right at the end of the round. He was also sporting a bloody mouth. There were no changes in the fifth or sixth rounds. Ryosuke continued to take a beating, even though he was trying hard to fight back.

Iwasa had a good round in the seventh, landing many of his punches. The men were each having their moments in the next few rounds. Due to an accidental head butt that left Juarez with a nasty cut the fight went to the scorecards after the tenth round. The scores were 95-95, 97-93, and 98-92, giving Iwasa that technical decision victory. Those scores left many people confused. Some even thought they announced the wrong name. Hmmm.

In an IBF world strawweight championship bout, Carlos Licona (14-1, 2 KOs) battled DeeJay Kriel (15-1-1, 7 KOs). This title fight was for a scheduled 12 rounds. These two made it to the end, but it was a wild ride getting there, to be sure. Kriel was trying to box, but Licona was the brawler in there, landing many strong power shots.

This continued throughout the fight, and DeeJay’s face was showing the wear and tear of a fighter who was on the receiving end of a hard-fought war. At this point it seemed a certain win for Licona, but in boxing there are no sure things.

In the twelfth and final round, Kriel summoned up new strength, probably both mentally and physically, and put Carlos on the canvas three, that’s right, three times! Referee Wayne Hedgpeth waved the fight off at 2:16 of the final round.

In a middleweight fight that was scheduled to go eight rounds, Hugo Centeno, Jr. (27-2, 15 KOs) stood across the ring from Oscar Cortes (27-4, 14 KOs). A clash of heads in the fourth round caused the fight to be stopped. Centeno got the technical decision victory.

Ivan Redkach (22-4-1, 17 KOs) faced off against Tyrone Harris (26-14, 16 KOs). This fight was for a scheduled eight rounds in the super lightweight division. This was a very quick fight, as Redkach scored a first round knockout, and the fight was over.

Super featherweights Jerry Perez (11-0, 7 KOs) and Ivan L. Benitez (12-3, 4 KOs) went at it in a bout scheduled for eight rounds. Perez wanted to show his domination from the beginning, and for the most part did so. But the pace slowed down in the third, and for some reason for a lot of the round they both looked like they were fighting in slow motion.

In the fourth, Jerry was having way with Benitez, and the corner jumped on the apron at 2:48 of that round to have the fight stopped.

Julian Rodarte (15-0, 6 KOs) entered the squared circle next to take on Miguel A. Mendoza (23-16-2, 22 KOs) in a lightweight fight that was scheduled for eight. There was a lot of action during the first two rounds, as these lightweights liked throwing a lot of punches. Julian was doing more damage thus far. Mendoza was all over Rodarte in the third. Julian came back again a bit in the fourth, but Miguel was still landing leather of his own. The fifth was back and forth, with the upper hand going to Rodarte, who landed the harder punches.

In the seventh, both men landed at times, and that was the same in the eighth. A lot of punches were being thrown, but not all of them were hitting their mark. We had to go to the scorecards. All of the judges saw the fight the same, 79-73 three times, for Rodarte.

Featherweights took to the ring next as Marlon Tanan Tapales (32-2, 15 KOs) went up against Fernando Vargas (35-17-3, 26 KOs). This fight was to go a scheduled 10 rounds, but it only went half the distance. Tapales was able to stop Vargas in the fifth round, thanks to a hard right hand to the head of Fernando near the end of the round.

Vargas got up before the eight, but was unsteady going back to his corner. That did not go unnoticed by referee Hedgpeth, and the fight was waved off, giving the Filipino fighter a much-needed victory to help him rebound back into the title picture. This was the sixth straight knockout victory for Tapales.

Shon Mondragon made his professional debut against Julio Martinez (1-0) in a super bantamweight fight that was scheduled for four rounds. Mondragon was making a good impression in his first round as a pro, going on the attack immediately. Shon made his debut a winning one, as he was all over Martinez in the second round, until referee Ray Corona jumped in and stopped the action at :47 of that second round, and gets his first victory by KO.

To open up the afternoon we saw a super featherweight bout that was scheduled to go six rounds between Neri Romero (12-0, 7 KOs) going up against Thomas Smith (5-7-1, 3 KOs). A quick right hand by Smith put Romero on the canvas early in the opening round. More punches missed than landed in the second. In the third, Romero was much more accurate and landed some very good punches.

The fourth saw good action from both men, as they landed a lot of their punches. Neri was once again connecting with a lot of his punches and seemed to get the better of Thomas for the moment. But the right hook had really been working for Smith all night.

We moved into the sixth and final, and the proof that Thomas’ right hand had been strong for him was Romero’s face. He had a nasty cut over his right eye, presumably from the leather he ate from Smith. We went to the scorecards. All of the judges saw the fight the same, 58-55 for Romero in what can only be called somewhat dubious scores.

As a side note, it is one thing to have a lot of fights after television time – alright, fine. But to be tearing down the media tables, electrical outlets, and barriers during the fights, one of which was a title fight, just seemed very disrespectful to the fighters and their families and friends. Those of us who chose to stay, and trust me, many did not, were not sure just how to react. It was just a bit weird.

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